By L.E. Pep
The Prime Minister and leader of the MSM, Pravind Jugnauth, hinted on Friday last, at the inauguration of the Petit Verger Multi-Purpose Hall, that he does not plan to dissolve the National Assembly any time soon. “Nou pe ale ver la fin nou mandat. Me selman ena dimoun pe croire mo pe ale disoute lasanble. Lasanble pa pou disoute de sito.”
The PM is playing fast and loose with the population with regards to the election date. Such is the system that prevails here, with the Prime Minister solely in command as to the setting of polling day, but it also shows little esteem for the population and for democratic principles. Why should the system be allowed to persist where a big-headed PM may, in a show of unexplainable contempt for the Mauritian voter, reiterate the earlier heard “Government is government…” This bodes ill for our democracy. Isn’t time that some sort of legislation were enacted to prevent such abuse of the PM’s prerogative in this matter?
As the race for forthcoming polls heats up, Pravind Jugnauth has become more a “publicity minister”, with an obsession with self-promotion. And, as usual, the MBC-TV and other institutions are already pushing a “particular narrative”.
Why the “delay” in poll date announcement? Is it to ensure that government can announce a series of programmes and welfare measures to get a head start over the opposition? Would this suggest that underhand and populist manoeuvers – the budget goodies, the poaching of candidates-cum-turncoats, the Metro Express, the Pope’s visit, the Indian Ocean Island Games have not delivered the expected results, and that there’s need for another set of scheming and people-friendly announcements in the period before the announcement of elections to sway voters? Especially the large number of still undecided ones who remain unimpressed by the display of prestige projects and the series of inaugurations and ribbon-cutting events?
* * *
A Water observatory in Mauritius and Rodrigues
A Tripartite Partnership Agreement as part of the project “Fund for Technical Expertise and Experience Transfers (FEXTE)” was signed between the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities (MEPU), the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (ARR), the Office of Water (OLE) of Reunion Island, and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
The FEXTE Convention comprises a grant of € 250,000 and a contribution of € 50,000 from the OLE which will be used to set up a Water Observatory in Mauritius and Rodrigues.
The Observatory will help in the collection of data from all sectors, sharing of information, identifying priorities and facilitating decision-making and ensuring better quality of drinking water and better management of resources, including taking into account the climate emergency. The one in Mauritius will be managed by the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities and that of Rodrigues by the ARR. Each Observatory will have its own database and analysis tool.
Our water resources are under significant pressure from pollution, the use of chemicals, high human density, over-exploitation of aquifers, etc., and the availability of water resources is becoming less and less predictable. The Water Observatory will pave the way towards an overall and coherent vision of the sector that has been lacking so far.
With most of previous agricultural lands turning into concrete jungles (to cater for a fast-growing demand for better living spaces) where mega apartment complexes sprout like mushrooms after the rain, and with our agriculture unable to meet the increasing demand for food, the entire country is badly in need of precious water on a 24/7 basis.
In 2015, American space agency NASA’s satellite data revealed that 21 of our planet’s 37 large aquifers are severely water-stressed.
With growing population and rising demand, this crisis can only get worse. If we want to secure a safe future, we need to start conserving water. There is an urgent need to curb abuse of groundwater and adopt measures for water conservation such as recycling of used water and making rainwater harvesting mandatory in all buildings and houses.
If we religiously take to water harvesting in a big way, it could go a long way to at least meet the demand of water for domestic needs. Rain water must be harvested in dedicated structures without which no new building should be permitted.
We will come to realise very soon that we will be facing the peril of the water scarcity unless we treat water with respect and remodel our economy along ecological lines.
* * *
Keshaw Jhummun, a member of the Politburo of the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), was arrested by Stanley police last Friday for rogue and vagabond behaviour. He and six other friends were embarked by a police team around 5 a.m. “Tiankor pe fer noir kan lapolis inn tap la port inn embark nou,” said one of the youths. And it was only at the police station that they learned that they were under investigation. This group had demonstrated outside the house of a resident of the locality that they suspected of being involved in illegal activities. Their protest took place in March. It seems the Stanley inhabitant had complained to the police against the protesters.
Keshaw Jhummun has accused a police officer of having brutalized him during his arrest at home. The MMM is denouncing the manner in which the arrest of these young people took place. “I denounce the way of doing of the police especially since it was the young people who had denounced an alleged drug dealer to the police.” It’s inadmissible for the police to arrest these young people at 5 a.m. as if they were vulgar criminals, says Deven Nagalingum, a member of the MMM.
Where is this country heading to? We expect that suspected drug traffickers remain under the constant watch of the police; what’s surprising is that six youths are arrested for denouncing drug trafficking in their locality. After the gambling mafia, it is now the drug mafia that seems to be consolidating its hold in some deprived and poverty-stricken areas.
* * *
Commons Speaker John Bercow to step down
John Bercow announced he is stepping down after a decade as Speaker of the House of Commons. Mr Bercow said it had been the “greatest honour and privilege” to serve and added that he would make “absolutely no apology” for seeking to expand the authority of the Commons and, in a coded attack on the British Prime Minister, warned that “we degrade this parliament at our peril”. He would quit immediately in the event of MPs voting later on Monday for the holding of a general election next month. Otherwise he will stand aside on October 31, the day the UK is set to leave the EU. His last act will likely be to assist MPs in blocking a no-deal Brexit.
New York Times commented thus: ‘With his roaring cries of “Order! Order,” his antiquarian language and his constant needling of the government, John Bercow, the speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, became a celebrity of the Brexit era.’
The Commons Speaker recently faced stark criticisms from Brexiteers, who questioned his impartiality. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Bercow has “totally changed the way in which the job has been done”.
Bloggers were unanimous in eulogizing him as the “Best speaker ever! You’ll be missed greatly. Your fairness, integrity, and compassion have been second to none.” “Bercow, having bags of experience barely held the toddlers in check with his ORDAAA!! ORDAAAAAA !!! I feel sorry for the next Speaker. They will have a hard time.”
Indeed, he was a calm harbour in a tempest brewing and deserve our kudos for the way in which he presided over the proceedings in the Commons for the last 10 years. John Bercow – you have been an absolute pleasure to watch. At the end of his speech, pretty much all of the opposition side got up to applaud him while the Tories produced some timid claps.
How lucky the UK has been to have John Bercow as Speaker of the Commons! The House of Commons has lost a Speaker and Britain lost a legend. We cannot even compare what we are used to here with John Bercow’s truly class act that always sounded coherent, impartial, clear, dignified and to the point. Our politicians have indeed a long way to go, but they can start by learning how to be an upholder of our democratic principles and keeper of our parliamentary traditions while learning to be impartial.
* * *
Brexit: The impact on the Mauritian economy
We cannot continue to rely on back-of-the-envelope assessments of the likely economic impact of a hard and soft Brexit on our economy. There have been all kinds of assumptions about the downturn of the UK’s economy and the depreciation of the pound sterling and bits and pieces of evaluations on the opportunities and difficulties for our exports, especially via the ESA-UK Partnership agreement. There has not been a coherent dynamic analysis that also takes into consideration the potential changes in the trade policies of UK towards our competitors and its impact on our competitivity.
The UNCTAD research paper on Brexit is a good starting point for the EDB to come forward with a detailed study on the implications of both a hard and soft Brexit on the Mauritian economy which will also include the opportunities and constraints in the tourism sector, the iGaming industry, the high-net-worth individuals, medical tourism and education, financial services, FDI and the impact on the competitivity of our exports, among others.
Now is the ripe time for our financial services to be more participative in a significant number of initiatives in the UK across the asset management, insurance and private wealth space to provide information about the various financial services operations that could be set up in Mauritius while the UK and the EU hammer out the details of the framework which would allow the UK to sustain its business with the EU and vice-versa.
* * *
Pope Francis highlights our incapacity to tackle inequality, youth unemployment…
Thousands of people flocked to the Marie Reine de la Paix, Port Louis, last Monday, and lined the highways and streets to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, a deeply spiritual man, a progressive thinker, and a man of the people who likes a good laugh.
He lives modestly, eschewing luxurious quarters for a modest apartment, and prefers less extravagant modes of travel. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit, known as the church’s intellectuals and its unrepentant rebels and for their mission among the poorest areas of the world, to hold that office. All of this found an echo in his address at the State house. It was not about our struggles to achieve high-income country status by 2030 or the realisation of grandiose projects. It was more of an attempt to drive us to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone, to take responsibility for our youth, our foreign workers, the scourge of drug and corruption, our environment and growing inequality. Pope Francis also stressed the dangers of capitalism and unbridled consumption. Mauritius’ economic development “does not benefit everyone,” he said, calling for vigilance. We need a human-centred model that creates jobs while being inclusive.
These verities from Pope Francis, a man of his word, seemed to have deprived a suffocating government of some of the oxygen that it was expecting to be shored up with from the Pope’s visit. It may pretend to be unperturbed by the criticism but the voters heard it loud and clear and these will come to bear when the time comes to make their choice.
* * *
Labour Party leader goes green
In a totally new attire, Navin Ramgoolam Version 2019, goes green to show that he practises what he preaches – a politics of “rupture”. The leader of the Labour Party participated in the Ferney Trail and travelled the eight kilometers of the course endorsing a jogging pant, the jersey 6808 and a red cap. Explaining his motivation behind this action, Navin Ramgoolam said he wants to raise awareness of the importance of preserving the environment. He recalled that before he came to power in 2005, the previous MSM-MMM government was planning to build a highway that would have razed the Ferney Valley.
Navin Ramgoolam also said he was very concerned about the garbage that is being thrown all around. He criticized the contract awarded to cleaning companies that are failing to keep our jogging tracks and regions clean. ‘Bisin ene dimun ki fort à la tete pays, pas dimun ki ziss kon coupe riban,’ he also said.
Half of the total amount collected from the participants in the event will be donated to Inclusion Mauritius; the remainder will go to the Ferney Valley Conservation Trust (which manages the preservation of this unique natural sanctuary in Mauritius). Joining the CIEL Ferney Trail also means helping disabled people and protecting the natural heritage of Mauritius. In 2018, Rs 300,000 had been donated to the two NGO groups.
By participating in such an event, the LP leader sought to demarcate his party from the present anti-environment regime which has cut down some 6,522 trees in the last 48 months to make room for ongoing infrastructure development projects at the Roland Armand Drive at Vandermeersch Street, Rose Hill, the Saint François bypass at Anse-la-Raie, and the Sivananda Road in Curepipe. The slaughter of trees for the benefit of infrastructural projects has unleashed a feeling of revolt among environmentalists, who are sounding the alarm on its harmful impact on our environment.
* * *
Quote: Chetan Ramchurn in Weekly
“Those who have left on a question of principle are now joining a party that is a fervent adherent of dynasty politics and is neck deep in scandals.’
* Published in print edition on 13 September 2019